Note by The Saker: as has been the case so many times in the past, I am posting an article with which I disagree, rather strongly, in fact, but which I find nevertheless worth posting precisely because it represents a point of view different from mine and because it asks some interesting questions. My own two cents about all this is that the Russians are seeking opportunities to appear to be compromising with the Trump Administration and that by appearing to yield to US pressures about the Astana Conference they are thereby giving in to the “negotiable minimum” to preempt US pressure where it really matters: China and Iran. As for Palmyra and Jaish al-Islam (JAI), I will say the following: in the first case, Palmyra is militarily irrelevant and, besides, that is a Syrian, not Russian, decision to be made. As for JAI, this is an old Russian trick: the Russians always talk to everybody, no exceptions ever. In the western mentality, the mere fact of sitting down with somebody sends a powerful message, in the Russian mentality, it means nothing. In this case, the JAI representatives will be sitting across the table from Russians and Iranians who will be looking at them and asking “so what are you willing to offer us? Give us a reason to be interested in talking to you”. This would be a clear case of divide et impera and not a case of abandonment of strategic objectives. Anyway, rather than writing a full-length response/rebuttal here I just want to remind possible newcomers that posting an article on this blog does not constitute an endorsement of its contents or conclusions.